Environment

Science Fiction-Like Event About to Happen in PA, OH & WV

Billions of bugs will crawl from the ground to have sex. Sound interesting? Read on.


Billions of very large and very loud insects emerge from underground, where they've been feasting on tree root juice for 17 years. At first they look like pods. Then suddenly, the pod splits open and an insect crawls out, revealing a ghostly white body with red eyes. Soon the bug swarms with others, covering trees, the ground, any spot where they can land to mate and make more of themselves.

No, this isn't the description of a scene from an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

It's the science-fiction-like appearance of the 17-year cicada, Brood VIII, which will emerge from the ground to breed in western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio and the northern panhandle of West Virginia over the next week.

According to the website Cicadamania, the bugs are due to surface as early as this weekend, or when the ground temperature reaches 64 degrees. The website says a nice warm rain like we're expecting Saturday can often trigger them. Watch them here.

Cicada Brood VIII could emerge from the ground as soon as this weekend.

The cicadas crawling out of the ground now come from eggs that were laid 17 years ago during the last emergence of Brood VIII. For about a month, probably a little longer, this new brood will molt, have insect sex, lay eggs, then die, with their offspring set to return in 2036. Oh, and they'll make noise that one scientist says sounds like screaming when they're here.

If you're an amateur entomologist, or you have a kid who just thinks bugs are cool, you can turn this into a science experiment. Cicada experts have developed a new mobile phone app to track, photograph and map the brood.

"We need everybody's help," scientist Gene Kritsky told The Beaver County Times.

"This is a citizen science project."- Scientist Gene Kritsky

Kritsky, an entomologist at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, worked with colleagues to create the Cicada Safari app, which is free and available in the App Store and Google Play. He wants you to take pictures when you notice a cicada, their shells, or holes in the ground, and share it to the app. If the scientists determine what you're seeing is evidence of a "periodical cicada," your discovery will go on a GPS-driven map that everyone can see.

Kritsky says tells the Times this type of mapping has even helped his colleagues discover a new population of cicadas in Tennessee. "We could discover new pockets of cicadas in western Pennsylvania."

The bugs swarm in bushes and trees to attract mates with high-pitched screams that top 90 decibels.

Cicadas aren't dangerous, don't bite, and they're environmentally friendly as food for birds and small mammals, and fertilizer for the soil. But they can damage trees and bushes. The Times article has more on what you can do to prevent that.

(Images: Cicadamania Facebook page)

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